For Crow Wing County, Highway Engineer Lyndon Robjent has a list of goals from providing a safe transportation system, developing a long-term vision to incorporating technology to assist that effort.
Robjent was inspired to go into engineering by his grandfather, who worked for the civil service and with Winston Churchill in the national defense industry during World War II.
"You have to have a vision and a purpose of where you want to be," Robjent said. "What is the vision? Where do you want to be 20 years from now and strive for that."
Crow Wing County is responsible for 600 miles of road and has a staff of about 37. Robjent said the county has a great leader in Rob Hall, assistant highway engineer, and a staff that is proud of their service. Not surprisingly, snowplowing remains a top priority when talking to residents.
Robjent said he's learned interaction with people is the most important part of the job.
"When it comes down to it, it's about the people and how you represent them and how you take care of them and how you communicate with them. If you have a good staff and they are happy you can get things done."
Coming up with a transportation plan in light of the expected growth here with short, mid-term and long-range goals.
Robjent advocates strong partnerships with city and state organizations to upgrade the transportation system and said more may be available there in terms of private partnerships as well.
Challenges ahead include the Highway 371 project affecting northern communities and the county's connections to the highway. Robjent said the county will face a share of that cost.
About 70 percent to 75 percent of the county's highway department revenue comes from federal and state grants. Making sure grant dollars continue is one goal along with being on top of the many grant opportunities that exist, Robjent said.
A 5-cent gas tax in the state could bring in more than $500,000 a year for Crow Wing County, which Robjent said could go a long way to rehabilitating the local road system. The county has a budget of $700,000 to $1 million on a good year for local roads, Robjent said.
Another goal is to be proactive in terms of technology that makes the job easier, including snow and ice removal. A liquid brine placed ahead of the storm in certain trouble areas is a fairly low-cost strategy that could help, Robjent said.
And brine that can be sprayed on sand/salt mixtures has been found to cut down on waste by 30 percent. But it will cost money to refit trucks with the sprayers.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is considered a nationwide expert in snow and ice with research and strategies the county can learn from, Robjent said.
Challenges in the area include all-terrain vehicles and recreational use in the transportation system, protecting the environment and considering pedestrian and bike traffic in the multi-use.
Major area projects include the decision on the final phase for Riverside Drive around Ahren's Hill, which is unlikely to come in 2008, and the Mill Avenue work, which will detour traffic in northeast Brainerd next spring and early summer. The large detour will be done by the Fourth of July with smaller local detours after that as the project will be completed by the fall.
The need for the major detour comes as the Mississippi River Bridge needs to be closed and the concrete deck and drainage systems is rehabilitated. Robjent said the bridge structure and piers are in good shape.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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